Report from Salisbury City Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 7th

Posted on June 8, 2016

Todd Paris, RFP Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ City Council was a packed house tonight, primarily regarding the proposed former Catholic Church/school rezoning surrounding the 100 block of North Fulton to a wedding party venue. A few folks spoke in favor and many against. David Post and Brian Miller quickly indicated their favorable a positive ruling after comparing present uses allowed under current zoning and what could be placed there in the future. Maggie Blackwell and Kenny Hardin, citing potential traffic, parking, and noise problems in the neighborhood from this changed use, voted “No.” After speaking for so long that entire civilizations must have risen and fallen during the duration, Mayor Alexander voted “yes.” Her major focus was on preserving the church building from being torn down at a later date and replaced with something not as “positive.” (Forget about the folks living there–they don’t count)  State law requires 4 votes to pass on the first reading. At a second reading, during next council, three “yes” votes will carry. So, unless someone changes their minds…

Miller mentioned that present zoning would allow uses for low income apartments which might bring in “undesirables”, to which Mr. Hardin took exception in that low income does not always mean undesirable folks.  Mr. Miller sort of apologized.

I pointed out during hearing that while I moved into an area with wedding venue nuisances like Mayor Alexander’s Heritage Room and the Community Building with eyes-wide-open, the residents of the Graded School District were having the potential nuisance moved in on them. I also opined that the Catholic Church owned deep pockets and could afford to keep their building up, but we don’t know about the potential new owners.

Lots of folks talked about the crime, violence and city-wide shootings. One lady who moved from Rochester, NY, which she described as the past crime capital of the U.S. before Detroit exploded, said she felt in more danger living in Salisbury. Several speakers called for more police. During the budget hearing, I suggested we sell Fibrant and plug in the $3 plus million dollar annual negative budget hole it’s causing and said if we couldn’t sell it then a tax increase would be necessary to plug that hole. We need to return the Salisbury Police to the 107 members we used to have. Yes, I suggested we raise taxes to do it, because people were getting killed or scared away. One lady from the West Side said that young gang members were shooting folks because they knew Salisbury Police were understaffed. Rowan County’s District Attorney and SPD received citizen criticism for 13 unsolved murders.

There was a public hearing on granting Downtown Salisbury, Inc. a new contract to spend our (my) municipal service district tax, (the majority of which pays the debt on Brian Miller’s derelict Empire Hotel” in South Main Badlands) on events. The only benefit of this Empire debacle to downtown merchants is to function as a bat habitat that no doubt reduces our chances of contracting the Zika virus or even the more dangerous La Crosse Encephalitis from airborne mosquitoes. Hey, could we market downtown apartments to young couples on that basis?  Breed in the safety of the Empire Bat-tel!

In all honesty, RFP and I had a little egg on the face moment as we loaded an article on the City not placing the Municipal Service District contract up for bid as new state law requires. Apparently they did, however quietly, and we “pulled” the article. I did request that any contract with DSI require them to be subject to the same FOIA request as the city so citizens could look at their budget. DSI Past president Mark Lewis said their budget is online on Salisbury’s webpage (despite my and several others best attempts to find it.) More troubling was Lewis’s assertion that he offered to email me a copy during the last municipal election, when that was patently false. He offered “to have lunch” and let me see it. I turned him down on that. If I can’t have a copy of something like that, then it’s useless to me.  So much for transparency.

This disgusted me and I left. RFP will post the city video when it eventually shows up unless people in City Hall make it disappear as “non-positive” segments have magically done before.  The video is well worth watching.

By the way, I did tell council what’s happening on the streets with all the murders and shootings. That info was not confidential and gained through our interviews with folks on the street. The “Focused Deterrence” program I suggested last year, borrowed from High Point, coupled with the hiring of a certain Black High Point Police Captain, now passed over by City Manager Bailey and a restoration of Salisbury Police Department numbers and salaries probably would have had this more under control. Then again, I am neither a grandmother nor banker and clearly have no idea what I am talking about.

Todd Paris at City Council:

Maggie Blackwell weighs in on behalf of folks living in the area around the 100 block of North Fulton Street about to become a wedding/party venue:

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